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Paul Krugman Destroys David Brooks In Debate Over Reagan's Racism

Steve Benen: It's rather unusual for high-profile columnists at the same newspaper to engage in a public quarrel,
 
 
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This post, written by Steve Benen, originally appeared on The Carpetbagger Report

It's rather unusual for high-profile columnists at the same newspaper to engage in a public quarrel, but the NYT's Paul Krugman and David Brooks have been going at it, slyly.

In a recent column about race and politics, Krugman noted the Republican Party's use of the Southern Strategy to pit whites and blacks against one another. It's a point Krugman also emphasized in his brilliant new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal."

Republican politicians, who understand quite well that the G.O.P.'s national success since the 1970s owes everything to the partisan switch of Southern whites, have tacitly acknowledged this reality. Since the days of Gerald Ford, just about every Republican presidential campaign has included some symbolic gesture of approval for good old-fashioned racism.

Thus Ronald Reagan, who began his political career by campaigning against California's Fair Housing Act, started his 1980 campaign with a speech supporting states' rights delivered just outside Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were murdered.

David Brooks responded this week, without mentioning Krugman by name, but nevertheless subtly slamming his colleague for his use of the Reagan anecdote.

Today, I'm going to write about a slur. It's a distortion that's been around for a while, but has spread like a weed over the past few months. It was concocted for partisan reasons: to flatter the prejudices of one side, to demonize the other and to simplify a complicated reality into a political nursery tale.

Still, the agitprop version of this week -- that Reagan opened his campaign with an appeal to racism -- is a distortion.... It's spread by people who, before making one of the most heinous charges imaginable, couldn't even take 10 minutes to look at the evidence.

Krugman returned the volley yesterday, still refraining from mentioning Brooks' name.

As Krugman explained on his blog, Reagan's defenders would have us believe that his "states' rights" speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, was just an "innocent mistake," which Reagan managed to make over and over again.

Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.

 
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